Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Faculty Bring Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Option to LaGuardia Community College

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Faculty Bring Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Option to LaGuardia Community College

Article excerpt

With shifting notions of gender and sexuality, ongoing discussions about reproductive rights and the emergence of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, a cohort of faculty members at LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC) within the City University of New York system saw a need for a program that could provide students with an understanding of the systems and theories that shape the world around them.

After a lengthy process of bringing the idea for a Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Option in Liberal Arts (WGS) to administrators, developing courses and completing an articulation agreement with CUNY Hunter College, faculty launched the degree option this fall. The program offers students an educational opportunity to explore and understand women and their roles in the context of todays social and political climate.

The option enrolled approximately 15 students this semester, although they are not necessarily all majors, says Dr. Jacqueline Jones, associate professor of English at LAGCC and one of the faculty members that led the charge to bring the option to the college.

As program director, Jones notes that college leaders were "very receptive" to the idea of having a program in women, gender and sexuality studies. And after LAGCC submitted the WGS proposal to the state, it was approved all at once.

"No rejections, no questions, no nothing," says Dr. Ann Feibel, associate provost and dean for academic affairs at LAGCC.

"We're always looking to expand our Liberal Arts options for our students and be relevant to give them the best educational opportunity," Feibel says, adding that English, social science and philosophy courses are represented in the new degree.

Students taking courses in the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Option complete 60 credits to receive their associates degree. Thirty credits are in the pathways common core, and the remaining credits are specifically for the WGS program.

The interdisciplinary WGS courses include Introduction to Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies; Transnational Feminisms; Images of Women in Literature; The Woman Writer; Gay and Lesbian Writers; Sexuality in Literature; Philosophy of Gender and Sex; Gender and Communication; Women and Gender in U.S. History; Politics of Sexuality; Women in Society; and Psychology of Women. Other courses focus on First Year Seminar for Liberal Arts; Humanism, Science and Technology; and preparing and writing a research paper.

"They're learning all of the key foundations and theories," Jones says, noting that faculty like to integrate activism into their courses so students realize that what they are studying are not just theoretical ideas, but ones that apply to the lived experience.

In the Transnational Feminism capstone course, for instance, students examine how globalization and capitalism affect people across nations, Jones says.

Dr. Allia Abdullah-Matta, associate professor of English at LAGCC, is another central faculty member involved in bringing the WGS program to LaGuardia. She teaches Introduction to Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, a course that is the first exposure to the field for some students at the college.

"A number of the students knew what they were signing up for, but a couple of them didn't really fully get what they were signing up for" Abdullah-Matta says. "So that piece has been to try to teach them to think about these issues and apply them to a larger context. I've seen some great movement in terms of their thinking, and how they themselves are situated in this discourse."

Students in the introductory course are required to keep a "gender log" to document how they see gender playing out in society on the bus, on the train or in their households, for example.

"Some of their assignments you could really see that they were noticing little things and then were able to analyze it," Abdullah-Matta says. …

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